Sony HDR-PJ760 Camcorder - Australian Exclusive
By David Hague
The world of the camcorder has been somewhat dull of late. The lower end seems to have languished, perhaps finally giving in to the March of the Smartphone - or as one exec. recently told me, why not just buy an inexpensive but decent compact still and get decent video thrown in?
The mid-range, around the $1000 mark, has been stagnant too, with little or no new features and more a race to see who can cut the most features that really should be there - viewfinders, external mic and headphone sockets spring to mind.
At last though, the higher end seems to be getting some attention with prices / bang tumbling; just look at the models from the likes of Canon and Panasonic of late such as the XA10 and the AG HMC41E; these now have features that were unheard of in this price range 3 years ago.
(Stay tuned here as Auscam is putting together a feature on using these cameras - and an as yet undecided model from Sony - as "run'n'gun" news cameras).
By the way, JVC it would appear are not in the contest at the moment, in Australia anyway, due to their distribution woes at present.
Bordering between high end consumer and low end professional is the new Sony HDR-PJ760, and it has been packed full of every feature you could possibly think of. Auscam has been lucky enough (or we schmoozed better than anyone else) to get our grubby little hands on a real life version and it is more than fair to say we are impressed.
Starting at the front, it sports a 10x optical zoom, 26mm wide angle Carl Zeiss lens sitting below an array of mics offering 5.1 surround sound. One thing we did like very much is the programmable knurled knob next to the lens; we've said it before and no doubt we'll say it again that a lens ring is preferable, buy hey, if for whatever reason we cannot have one, we'll have this instead.
The internal processor is the venerable Exmor R with an "enhanced" optical steady shot system capable of stills up to a staggering 24.1 megapixels. This alone (the steady shot I mean) is worth mentioning.
You know how when panning quickly, if you stop suddenly the imagery on playback comes to a jarring halt? Well the boffins at Sony have got together and eliminated this problem. I don't pretend to understand the technicalities behind the genius - and really, does that matter? - but suffice to say imagine the lens is suspended inside some thick gel. As you stop the pan, the gel "buffers" the lens bringing it to a gentle halt. I am sure it is much more techo than that, but you get the idea.
In fact, if you give the camera a bit of a shake, you can feel the lens inside moving and if you point it at you and give a rapid left /right movement, the lens physically moves. Quite eerie, but eminently workable.
In operation, it takes a little getting used to, but the results are excellent.
An excellent touch is the inbuilt LED light above the lens giving more than enough power to light a face or dark room and although nocturnal wildlife is a bit sparse in these parts of Sydney, except for the odd rabbit, I am sure it would also suffice for this sort of night video shooting. And of course there is the Sony Nightshot system there.
Sony pioneered the ol' "projector in a camcorder" trick, and the HDR-PJ760 also has this feature, with the projecting LED built into the exterior of the flip out LCD. I have to say you either like the idea or not; I can accept at a pinch or at a party say, it could be useful and even fun, but I'd rather playback on a shiny big screen any day. However the LED output is nice and bright even in a less than darkened room.
THE LCD is also the control panel for all functions as the HDR-PJ760 is touch screen based. The menu system is very easy to follow, and the screen is sharp and clear.
Shots and video (AVCHD as is the norm these days) can be stored either on SD card or Memory Stick, and there is an internal memory of a whopping 96GB as well.
You might think that so far we have a gadget laden beastie that couldn't go any further. Wrong! The PJ760 also has a built in GPS system - some people love these and others, including moi, are more meh! about such a thing. To me GPS has become all invasive with my car, phone, dSLR, compact and no doubt soon, watch all having one. Just how much do we need to know where we are - or were? Of course the ultimate would be a fridge with GPS, or perhaps your microwave...
Sadly, the model I received does not have a manual with it so I cannot comment on the level of quality, or not, of this, but generally Sony manuals are pretty good. What IS supplied though - hallelujah - is anHDMI cable. It definitely seems the tide is turning in this regard as more and more camcorders are being shipped with these in the box.
There have been numerous improvements over previous modelssuch as a physically larger lens (52mm thread) and indeed, a new lens (CZ as against the previous G lens). Reading some of the specifications also suggests the viewfinder has also seen improvement as has the "face mode" system.
At a price of around $1899 it is very good value for money for the serious short film maker and enthusiast alike. A mate who is an ENG shooter (TV news etc) even says it is good enough to be a backup camera for his shoulder mount beast.
See some sample footage here (approx 1 minute)Auscam Rating
Value for Money 8
We Liked: Steadyshot system, LED light, supplied HDMI cable, massive onboard RAM, programmable front knob
We Disliked: It's possibly a tad heavy
Contact: Sony Australia / www.sony.com.au